Fermilab gets the go-ahead to start building new linear accelerator anticipated worldwide

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia can start building a new superconducting radio-frequency linear accelerator that will help scientists in their quest to better understand our universe.

The Department of Energy, which oversees Fermilab, has given its permission for the whole Proton Improvement Plan II project, the United States' premier particle physics laboratory announced Thursday. Construction on the accelerator is expected to start in the fall.

"We are elated to have reached this crucial step for PIP-II," Fermilab Director Lia Merminga, the former PIP-II project director, said in a news release. "Our team around the world has worked tirelessly to prepare for this moment. The planning has paid off, and we are excited to move into the construction phase, knowing it will make incredible new science possible."

The laboratory broke ground for PIP-II - estimated to cost $1.28 billion - three years ago. Construction of other aspects already is underway, including building a cryogenics plant.

The new linear accelerator will generate proton beams 60% higher than current capabilities and will be used to send customized proton beams to multiple experiments operating at the same time.

That includes the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment hosted by Fermilab. In that experiment, neutrinos - the most ubiquitous of all particles - and anti-neutrinos will be sent through the ground to a near detector in Illinois and the ultimate detector, 800 miles away, at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota.

Scientists plan to study changes in the neutrinos' types, called flavors, that happen along the way. Scientists hope it could help explain why there is more matter than antimatter in our universe.

Research institutions from Italy, France, Poland, India and the United Kingdom are contributing $310 million in expertise and materials to the project, including the construction of cryomodules.

PIP-II is expected to be finished about seven years from now.

"Fermilab's accelerators powered experiments that made significant breakthroughs over the past 50 years," Nigel Lockyer, former Fermilab director, said in the news release. "The formal construction start for PIP-II means we are one step closer to enhancing our facilities and supporting the next 50 years of physics discoveries."

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